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3 Levels of a Criminal Background Investigation


A criminal background investigation is an important aspect of a Background Search. With the advent of technology and the emergence of fast access to computerized information, criminal background investigations are becoming increasingly commonplace.

 Conducting a thorough criminal background investigation involves the review of public records from the local to the national levels. Here is an overview of the various levels one should investigate when conducting a criminal background investigation.

National Criminal Background Investigation

Ideally, conducting a criminal background investigation should involve a review of the national database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, this database, known as the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, cannot be accessed publicly. Only individuals working for the criminal justice agencies are allowed access to the said database. Unauthorized access or purchasing the restricted information would lead to serious penalties.


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Since a review of the FBI database is not possible, a nationwide criminal background investigation would thus require a review of the smaller criminal records databases, such as those in the county and the state. A search of these smaller databases would require more time, effort and money, but is the only way to conduct a complete criminal background investigation.

State Criminal Background Investigation

Next to a national criminal background investigation, a statewide criminal background investigation would be most ideal. It is possible to conduct one in approximately 30 states, such as Washington, Texas, New Jersey and Florida, to name a few. However, it takes anywhere from a few days to a month before the reports are received and the criminal background investigation is completed. Another limitation to a statewide criminal background investigation is that although some states have an accessible public index, the state index is only a compilation of the indices submitted by their counties. Thus, if a county does not submit its data to the state, the state index will not be complete.

County Criminal Background Investigation

For most people conducting a criminal background investigation, a countywide criminal investigation is the most feasible and practical level of investigation. In some counties, criminal records databases are available online; however, these databases are not always complete. Thus, when conducting a criminal background investigation, it is still more beneficial to go to the county courthouses and search the available public records. Clerks of county courthouses have access to the said records, and will be able to help you with your criminal background investigation. Felonies and misdemeanor records may either be combined or separated, depending on the county. BRB Publications authored several books that are quite helpful, providing descriptions of every jurisdiction.

Given the above information, it can be concluded that searching the national databases is not exactly feasible. It is thus most reasonable to conduct a county wide criminal background investigation , combined with a statewide criminal background investigation, whenever possible. As this can be quite time-consuming and requires a load of effort to accomplish effectively, it may thus be a good idea to hire investigative firms to conduct the criminal background investigation for you.


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